Nunavut mine reports two presumptive cases of COVID-19

Officials say two cases not connected to previous case, which later came back negative

There are two more presumptive cases of COVID-19 at Nunavut’s Mary River Mine.

Last week, Nunavut announced a presumptive case at the remote mine site, which is 160 kilometres south of Pond Inlet.

A laboratory test later came back negative. The government says the two new cases aren’t connected to the previous one.

Nunavut health officials took questions following an announcement today.

“Two out of territory workers at the mine have tested positive, and while we await the confirmed results from the south, we must treat these as presumptive,” said Minister of Health George Hickes.

The territory’s top doctor stressed caution as they await results.

“We’re operating under the assumption for now that these individuals still are, could still transmit COVID-19 to other people. And taking every precaution to prevent further spread,” said Chief Public Health Officer Michael Patterson.

No Nunavut residents have been onsite since March, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into communities.

Last week, there was another positive test at this mine that was later re-tested and determined to be negative.

Patterson is confident the cases are not connected.

“With what we know right now, the best explanation is that transmission occurred either outside of the mine or not between our first presumptive and either of these two people, simply because they had no contact at the mine site, that could have accounted for the results we got.”

Mine workers do not have to isolate for two weeks before travelling to the Nunavut mine sites.

Nunavut’s mines are paying their Nunavut-based employees to stay home.

One big question remains.

The mines can’t pay staff for not working forever, and with no clear end for COVID-19 in site, how long they continue to do so remains unclear.

Video Journalist / Iqaluit

Kent has been APTN’s Nunavut correspondent since 2007. In that time he has closely covered Inuit issues, including devolution and the controversial Nutrition North food subsidy. He has also worked for CKIQ-FM in Iqaluit and as a reporter for Nunavut News North.